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·关注声援支持人权律师刘士辉,强烈抗议流氓暴政的政治迫害人权律师!
·呼吁全球华人关注支持民族英雄郭泉博士
·真正的知识分子英雄郭泉博士
·决不以出卖灵魂出卖人格尊严为代价打官司
·严正警告流氓无赖中共匪帮
·南郭警告胡锦涛别再玩火!
·强烈谴责中共暴政枉法滥捕自由作家谭作人先生
·胡锦涛最害怕最恨谁?
·为申曦(曾节明)作证的证明函
·论颠覆及煽动颠覆国家政权罪
·颠覆国家政权罪的法理解析
·中共阉法院认定的颠覆国家政权案件"犯罪事实"简析
·关注声援支持中国知识分子英雄郭泉博士
·我为郭泉博士抗辩
·敬请各界朋友关注声援支持民主斗士郭泉教授
·郭国汀律师称中共颠覆(煽动颠覆)国家政权罪系违宪恶法
·烈女邓玉娇传记六则
·“法学专家”是因“理性”还是因“奴性”而胡说八道?!
·强烈谴责胡锦涛及中共专制暴政枉法杀害英雄义士杨佳!
·杨佳精神不朽 抗暴当走退党之路
·岂能将英雄义士杨佳与希特勒、哈尔曼、唐永明相提并论?!
·杨佳案7名涉案警察证人和杨佳的母亲必须出庭作证
·郭国汀预言死刑将造就更多杨佳
·杨佳略传六则一揽
·悼颂杨佳
·杨佳依自然法无罪而且是个值得国人敬重的英雄!
·郭国汀再谈杨佳案的辩护
·郭国汀律师的臭文
·正义、尊严、公道与犯罪----杨佳有罪吗?
·敬请关注声援失踪的律师英雄张鉴康
·强烈谴责中共胡氏当局非法剥夺人权律师张鉴康的执业权
·坚决支持李国涛先生的义举,反对极权专制独裁政治!
·严正责令胡锦涛及中共当局——立即无条件释放民运志士李国涛!
·强烈谴责中共恶意迫害自由战士杨天水、许万平/郭国汀
·强烈谴责中共流氓暴政政治迫害冯正虎先生
·历史耻辱柱上的中国法官
·中国律师受迫害的根源何在?-—声援支持高智晟律师
·良知律师朱久虎被刑拘突显中国司法制度的流氓化/郭国汀
·闻小乔遭警方驱逐毒打有感
·强烈谴责中共专制暴政纵容黑社会暴力侵袭郭飞雄先生的暴行!
·敬请各界朋友们关注声援支持正在为全民族承受无边苦难的英雄郭飞雄
·郭国汀敦促胡锦涛立即无条件释放人权英雄郭飞雄、高智晟的公开函
·强烈谴责上海市当局非法拘禁李剑虹 郭国汀
·专制流氓暴政本质的再暴露——强烈谴责中共流氓黑社会企图暗杀高智晟律师
·严正责令胡锦涛立即无条件释放朱宇飙律师!
·评论严正责令胡锦涛立即无条件释放朱宇飙律师!
·强烈谴责中共专制暴政迫害人权律师杨在新!
·强烈谴责胡氏专制暴政滥施淫威迫害当代中国最高贵的人吕耿松
·中共专制暴政再次公然指鹿为马!——我为陈树庆先生抗辩
·强烈谴责中共流氓专制暴政悍然施暴人权律师李和平!
·谁是精神病?!敬请关注自由思想者贺伟华先生
·郭国汀敬请全球华人关注自由思想者贺伟华
·强烈谴责胡氏专制暴政对中国知识分子的政治迫害!---我为荆楚抗辩
·严正警告胡锦涛:立即无条件释放高智晟律师!
·郭国汀谈胡佳案
·恶法不除,国无宁日/郭国汀
·严正学先生何罪之有!
·中国涉外案件没有一起获得执行 郭国汀
***(50)坎坷人权律师路
·郭国汀致中国律师网全体新老网友的公开函
·成为一名人权律师!---郭国汀律师专访
·令我热泪横流的小诗 郭国汀
·无知缺德者当权必然造成人为灾难--正视科学尊重科学
·我们要说真话-答红旗生的蛋 郭国汀
·出身论,成份论应当休矣!
·民族败类!你是否中国人?
·说句心里话
·孔子当然伟大.郭国汀
·时代不同了! 郭国汀
·可敬的国安公安或网警请自重!
·我们决不再沉默! 郭国汀
·秋池君倡议创立中共中国律师网上支部有感/南郭
·我有罪,我可以再作一次自我辩护吗?
·错兄你该醒醒了!
·给某北大高材生的公开函
·答"语文大师"之指责
·答错别字的终结者/南郭
·吾不同意你的观点,但捍卫阁下的自由表达权。错兄的贴还是应当保留
·答龙吟君/南郭
·答紫兄质疑/南郭
·答醉翁
·答迷风先生/南郭
·驳上海当局特务造谣抵毁郭国汀律师的谎言/南郭
·答紫兄质疑/南郭
·吾不同意你的观点,但坚决捍卫阁下的自由表达权。
·郭国汀:我向错兄致歉--同时为错兄说句公道话
·我的观点与立场--驳非法入侵
·郭国汀 汝吹牛!
·南郭不但会骂人而且必将把“乡愿,德之贼”型的小人骂得狗血喷头!
·纯属多余的担忧
·伟大的中华文明博大精深的中华文化---答孟庆强
·我看郭国汀律师
·剥放屁狗们的皮----公安国安网警与郑恩宠
·亦曰将无同,兼斥郭国汀、刘路之类,并向相关版主求教
·对内直不起腰者别指望其对外挺身而出
·南郭/对周树人的评价吾深以为然
·世上最美丽者莫过于大自然——人的本质、伟大
·令郭国汀律师老泪纵横的真情
·南郭:为当代中国人的幸福而努力奋斗
·心里话三步曲/郭国汀
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Constitutional Interpretation

Constitutional Topic: Constitutional Interpretation
   The Constitutional Topics pages at the USConstitution.net site are presented to delve deeper into topics than can be provided on the Glossary Page or in the FAQ pages. This Topic Page concerns the various interpretations of the Constitution that have evolved over time.
   
   The Constitution is many things to many people. Undoubtedly, it is the frame work for the Government of the United States of America, defining the three branches and clearing delineating the powers of the branches. It also undoubtedly grants certain power to the federal government and grants others to the states; and it undoubtedly guarantees the basic rights of the people.

   The Constitution is short; it cannot and does not attempt to cover every eventuality. Even when it seems it is clear, there can be conflicting rights, conflicting spheres of power. When disputes arise, it comes time for people, and most importantly judges of the Judicial Branch, to interpret the Constitution. The concept of constitutional interpretation is foreign in some countries, where the constitution makes a reasonable effort to cover every eventuality. These constitutions are generally rigid and little changing, adapting slowly to advances in political views, popular opinion, technology, and changes in government. The U.S. Constitution, however, has been termed a Living Constitution, in part because it grows and adapts to internal and external pressures, changing from one era and generation to the next.
   When a new situation arises, or even a new variation on an old situation, the Constitution is often looked to for guidance. It is at this point that the various interpretations of the Constitution come into play.
   There is no one right way to interpret the Constitution, and people often do not always stick to one interpretation. Below, then, are the major divisions in interpretation; your own personal beliefs may fall into several of these categories.
   Note: the major sources for material for this section were "Constitutional Law: Cases and Commentary" by Daniel Hall, and "On Reading the Constitution" by Lawrence Tribe and Michael Dorf.
   
   Originalism, or, Original Intent
   Originalists think that the best way to interpret the Constitution is to determine how the Framers intended the Constitution to be interpreted. They look to several sources to determine this intent, including the contemporary writings of the framers, newspaper articles, the Federalist Papers, and the notes from the Constitutional Convention itself.
   Originalists consider the original intent to be the most pure way of interpreting the Constitution; the opinions of the Framers were, for the most part, well documented. If there is an unclear turn of phrase in the Constitution, who better to explain it than those who wrote it?
   Opponents of originalism note several points. First, the Constitution may have been the product of the Framers, but it was ratified by hundreds of delegates in 13 state conventions - should not the opinions of these people hold even more weight? Also, the Framers were a diverse group, and many had issues with specific parts of the Constitution. Whose opinion should be used? Next, do the opinions of a small, homogeneous group from 200 years ago have the respect of the huge, diverse population of today? To a black woman, how much trust can be placed in the thoughts of a white slave owner who's been dead for generations?
   In truth, as with all of the following interpretations, most people use originalism when it suits them. Finding a quote from a framer to support a modern position can be a powerful way to advance your point of view.
   
   Modernism/Instrumentalism
   Those who most oppose the Originalist approach often consider themselves to be modernists, or instrumentalists. A modernist approach to Constitutional interpretation looks at the Constitution as if it were ratified today. What meaning would it have today, if written today. How does modern life affect the words of the Constitution? The main argument against originalism is that the Constitution becomes stale and irrelevant to modern life if only viewed through 18th century eyes. Additionally, we have more than 200 years of history and legal precedent to look back on, and that we are modern individuals, with as much difficulty in reasonably thinking like 18th century men as those 18th century men would have had trouble thinking like us.
   Modernists also contend that the Constitution is deliberately vague in many areas, expressly to permit modern interpretations to override older ones as the Constitution ages. It is this interpretation that best embodies the Living Constitution concept: the Constitution is flexible and dynamic, changing slowly over time as the morals and beliefs of the population shift. Modernists do not reject originalism - they recognize that there is value in a historical perspective; but the contemporary needs of society outweigh an adherence to a potentially dangerously outdated angle of attack.
   Originalists feel that modernism does a disservice to the Constitution, that the people who wrote it had a pure and valid vision for the nation, and that their vision should be able to sustain us through any Constitutional question.
   
   Literalism - historical
   Historical literalists believe that the contemporary writings of the Framers are not relevant to any interpretation of the Constitution. The only thing one needs to interpret the Constitution is a literal reading of the words contained therein, with an expert knowledge in the 18th century meaning of those words. The debates leading to the final draft are not relevant, the Federalist Papers are not relevant - only the words.
   The historical literalist takes a similar look at the Constitution as an originalist does, but the literalist has no interest in expanding beyond the text for answers to questions. For example, an historical literalist will see the militia of the 2nd Amendment as referring to all able-bodied men from 17 to 45, just as in the late 18th century, and this interpretation will color that person's reading of the 2nd Amendment.
   
   Literalism - contemporary
   Very similar to an historical literalist, a contemporary literalist looks only to the words of the Constitution for guidance, but this literalist has no interest in the historical meaning of the words. The contemporary literalist looks to modern dictionaries to determine the meaning of the words of the Constitution, ignoring precedent and legal dissertation, and relying solely on the definition of the words.
   Just as the historical literalist view parallels the originalist view, but much more narrow in focus, so too does the contemporary literalist mirror the modernist; and again, the main difference is the literalist looks only to the words of the Constitution for meaning. To expand on the 2nd Amendment example, the contemporary literalist will view the militia as the modern National Guard, and this will color that person's views on the 2nd.
   
   Democratic/normative reinforcement
   Finally, the democratic interpretation is the last approach to interpretation. Democratic interpretation is also known as normative or representation reinforcement. Democratic proponents advocate that the Constitution is not designed to be a set of specific principles and guidelines, but that it was designed to be a general principle, a basic skeleton on which contemporary vision would build upon. Decisions as to the meaning of the Constitution must look at the general feeling evoked by the Constitution, then use modern realism to pad out the skeleton.
   As evidence, democrats point out that many phrases, such as "due process" and "equal protection" are deliberately vague, that the phrases are not defined in context. The guidance for interpretation must come from that basic framework that the Framers provided, but that to fill in the gaps, modern society's current morals and feelings must be taken into consideration. Changes in the Constitution that stem from this kind of philosophy will end up with principles of the population at large, while ensuring that the framers still have a say in the underlying decision or ruling. This interpretation is seen to enhance democratic ideals and the notion of republicanism.

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